Bailiffs invade Brent occupation

Bailiffs cutting their way through the chain binding occupier Hank Roberts to a pole
Bailiffs cutting their way through the chain binding occupier Hank Roberts to a pole

THIRTY policemen and 20 bailiffs invaded the Wembley Park Sports Ground anti-academy occupation at 6.30am Friday morning and used grinding equipment to remove Hank Roberts, who was chained to a flagpost on the sport centre’s roof.

Roberts, Brent NUT secretary, was then manhandled off the site, but not arrested.

‘I’m totally amazed,’ said Roberts.

‘They told me yesterday that I was going to jail straightaway.

‘It’s a great victory. They’re obviously very worried about us.’

News Line reporters spoke to Roberts on the roof as the state forces were arriving.

He said: ‘I locked myself on half an hour before they got here. I’m facing arrest.

‘I’m locked on here to a flagpole, resisting the injunction, fighting against the privatisation of state education and putting an academy on this sports ground.

‘We need our sports grounds and we certainly don’t need privatised academies on them.

‘They are trying to intimidate people left, right and centre.

‘There are 20 bailiffs here so far. I’m confident of the support of teachers, residents and parents.

‘My message is: we have to up the level of resistance.

‘You can see over there, they’ve removed the tent over there, they’ve arrested the tent!

‘There are loads of people outside. They’ve been locked out, some have climbed in.

‘The bailiffs have been threatening to arrest people, even though bailiffs can’t arrest.

‘The bailiffs haven’t spoken to me today, but yesterday they told me I would be going straight to jail.

‘I’m not frightened. Academies are an abomination.

‘I’ve been a teacher in this borough for over 30 years.

‘I’m in favour of state education.

‘Now the police have just arrived en masse and are escorting people off the premises.’

Roberts was interrupted by shouts from outside from supporters of: ‘No academy! Well done Hank!’ and ‘Save our sports ground! Well done Hank!’

Roberts shouted: ‘Thanks very much.’

He continued to News Line: ‘I’m not going to fight with them, I’m not going to struggle.’

Lifting gear was used to take bailiffs up to the roof, two at a time.

A bailiff said: ‘We are going to bring one more bailiff up and a locksmith.

‘We are going to remove you.’

Roberts told him: ‘A senior police officer told me the police and fire brigade would deal with it, I’m not prepared to go at the hands of the bailiffs.’

Roberts shouted down to a senior police officer, standing on the ground: ‘You said the fire brigade was going to deal with this. I said I would keep still and wouldn’t move if the fire brigade did it.

‘Why now has it been handed to someone else? I think this is a disgrace.’

Council staff brought up onto the roof tried using bolt cutters, but couldn’t get through and brought up a grinder instead.

They put a hood over Roberts’ head, as sparks flew as the grinder went through the metal of one of two D-locks that were linked together, one going around Roberts’ neck and the other attached to the flagpole.

Roberts said as the sparks were flying: ‘See what happens if you fight to stop an academy and save a sports ground.

‘I’m absolutely proud of what I’m doing here.

‘I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do. We have to stop these academies and save our sports grounds, we can and must defeat them.’

When the D-lock attached to the flagpole had been cut, Roberts was then taken into the lifting platform and returned to the ground.

He was then manhandled off the site, to loud cheers from supporters.

He told them: ‘I’m really proud of you all for being here.

‘We have to make a stand for what is right.

‘This is a noble cause, I believe we can win.

‘I’ve heard it, right from the top, the council is really worried about what we are doing here.’

Roberts continued: ‘I’m free to go. I am totally surprised not to have been arrested and taken off.

‘It just shows the weakness of their case.

‘It’s amazing, isn’t it. It’s a great victory. They’re obviously very worried about it.’

l Campaigners went to court yesterday to seek to challenge the council’s planning decision to build an academy – they were denied, but the judge reduced their costs from £6,000 to £900.